What Is Alpha Arbutin? Everything You Need To Know

what is alpha arbutin

Alpha Arbutin might not be an ingredient that you’ve heard of before, but its potent properties make it a powerhouse ingredient when it comes to its hyperpigmentation-fading effects. With less side effects than hydroquinone, Alpha Arbutin is gentler on your skin whilst still providing highly-effective results.

Today, we’re taking a deep dive into this clever ingredient and discovering more about what makes Alpha Arbutin special. Plus, we’ll be sharing our skin expert’s top picks of Alpha Arbutin-containing skincare.

What is Alpha Arbutin?

Alpha Arbutin is a tyrosinase inhibitor that is naturally derived from bearberry, cranberry and pear leaves. It helps to lighten your skin, and is commonly found in skincare created to help fade hyperpigmentation.

It’s a naturally occurring antioxidant that helps to reduce melanin formation in your skin, which in turn, helps to improve the appearance of freckles, age spots, melasma, post-inflammatory pigmentation and acne scars.   

Used as a more tolerable alternative to hydroquinone, Alpha Arbutin causes minimal irritation and minimal sensitivity in comparison. It also doesn’t pose a risk regarding exogenous ochronosis - a cutaneous disorder which causes blue-black pigmentation as a complication of long-term application of skin-lightening creams that contain hydroquinone in those with darker skin.

Which skin types is Alpha Arbutin best for?

Alpha Arbutin is suitable for all skin types and tones but is best suited for skin that has hyperpigmentation.

What are the main benefits of Alpha Arbutin?

  • Brightens your complexion
  • Lightens and reduces UV pigmentation and free radicals
  • Stops the production of melanin to prevent further pigmentation
  • Has fewer side effects than hydroquinone
  • Doesn’t increase sun sensitivity
  • Fades discoloration caused by environmental stressors
  • Fades discolouration caused by inflammation
  • Evens skin tone
  • Addresses sugar-induced skin sallowness
  • Addresses loss of elasticity

What does Alpha Arbutin do?

Alpha Arbutin works as a tyrosinase competitive inhibitor, which means that it slows down melanosome maturation.

Melanosomes are intracellular organelles that are uniquely generated by the pigment cells in your skin and your eyes - from here, they function to synthesise and store melanin pigments.

By slowing the process down, your skin can continue its natural regeneration process and shed away the top layers of skin, taking the pigmented areas with them and leaving behind a more even toned, radiant complexion.

Does Alpha Arbutin make skin sensitive to sun?

It’s important to wear a high SPF daily, particularly whilst using lightening products, to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent further pigmentation - even in the wintertime. If you’re looking for a great SPF to take you through the winter months, discover our Top 8 Winter Sunscreens here.  

Is Alpha Arbutin good for acne scars?

Yes - Alpha Arbutin is effective at reducing acne scars along with post-blemish redness.

Is Alpha Arbutin safe in pregnancy?

Alpha Arbutin should be avoided during pregnancy. As an alternative,look to brightening products that contain niacinamide or vitamin C. We always advise speaking to your doctor to ensure your products are safe to use during pregnancy. 

When does Alpha Arbutin start working?

In most cases, it takes around 8-12 weeks to see significant results from Alpha Arbutin skin lightening treatments. Discover our top five bestselling Alpha Arbutin skincare products below, as loved by our customers.

1. mesoestetic Cosmelan 2 Depigmentation Cream

Designed to reduce hyperpigmentation, this highly effective lightening cream helps to restore radiance and clarity to your skin by softly removing uneven pigmentation.

Infused with antioxidants, the cream helps to protect your skin against harmful free radicals whilst reducing, or in some cases, eradicating, the appearance of dark spots.

Working by preventing the synthesis of melanin, the hyperpigmentation treatment inhibits the production for so long that your skin can continue its natural regeneration process, shedding away the top layers of skin and taking the pigmented areas with them.

mesoestetic Cosmelan 2 Depigmentation Cream

2. PharmaClinix Lightenex Gold Cream

This maximum strength professional skin brightening cream helps to brighten areas of resistant hyperpigmentation in Asian, African, and Ethnic skins without the use of Hydroquinone.

With high strength active ingredients including Alpha Arbutin, Beta Arbutin, Vitamin C, Octanoic acid, Niacinamide, L-Lactic acid, Retinaldehyde, Glucosamine, Salicylic acid, Liquorice extract and Vitamin E, the powerful formula can be used on your face, as well as thick, dark areas of skin on the body like your knees, elbows, and underarms.

PharmaClinix Lightenex Gold Cream

3. Jan Marini Luminate Face Lotion

Correct and brighten pigmentation and dark spots without harsh ingredients in just 6-12 weeks with this revolutionary formula.

Nonapeptide-1 works to suppress the hormone that triggers the over production of melanin, while Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane harnesses the skin lightening powers of Turmeric.

Skin renewal is increased thanks to Alpha Arbutin and Retinol, whilst anti-inflammatory Green Tea Extract and Bisabolol provides antioxidant protection and stimulates collagen and elastin production to help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Jan Marini Luminate Face Lotion

4. Environ Focus Care Radiance+ Multi-Bioactive Mela-Prep Lotion

Combat the appearance of uneven and sun damaged skin with this unique lotion that will leave your skin looking youthful and brighter.

Containing a variety of highly specialised ingredients to help improve the appearance of an uneven skin tone and visible sun damage, your skin will appear brighter and with a more even tone.

Environ Focus Care Radiance+ Multi-Bioactive Mela-Prep Lotion

5. Dermaceutic Yellow Cream

Containing more than 20% lightening agents, this depigmenting concentrate regulates melanin biosynthesis (inhibition of tyrosinase) to help to reduce hyperpigmentation, melasma, and hormone spots.

 Dermaceutic Yellow Cream


Ready to start your beaty prep for the upcoming party season? Read our post on our Top 10 Christmas Party Prep Skin, Hair & Nail Essentials here.